Nigerian Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has expressed his support for popular Afrobeat artist, David Adeleke, also known as Davido, who was criticized by some Muslims for posting a video clip that they considered disrespectful to Islam.
Soyinka said that Davido did not owe any apology to the Muslim community and that he had the right to use dance as a form of artistic expression in a religious setting.
The video clip in question was a 45-second teaser of Davido’s signee, Logos Olori’s new song, ‘Jaye Lo,’ which was posted on Davido’s social media pages on Friday, July 21, to promote the song ahead of its official release.
The clip showed some men dressed in white robes, resembling Muslim clerics, dancing in front of a mosque-like structure. This sparked an outrage among some Muslims who felt that the video was mocking their religion and demanded that Davido should take down the video and apologize.
However, Davido deleted the video on Monday, July 24, after facing heavy backlash, but did not issue any apology. This prompted some prominent figures, such as Senator Shehu Sani, to urge Davido to apologize to the Muslim community for hurting their sentiments.
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Soyinka, however, disagreed with this view and said that Davido had the right to dance in front of a mosque as an affirmation of the spiritual in human. He said that dancing in a religious setting was a universal heritage and that Islam was especially adaptable to such expressions, as any plot of land could be turned into a sacred space for worship.
“No apology is required, None should be offered. Let us stop battening down our heads in the mush of contrived contrition – we know where contrition, apology, and restitution remain clamorous in the cause of closure and above all – justice.”
He said that those who were offended by the video should exercise their right to boycott Davido’s products, but not to incite negative reactions or violence. He said that no apology was required or should be offered by Davido and that Nigerians should stop being contrite over trivial matters.
He also said that there were more serious issues that should anger Nigerians, such as the lynching of Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a student who was killed by her peers in Sokoto over alleged blasphemy, and the imprisonment of Mubarak Bala, an atheist who has been detained for over three years for expressing his views. He said that these were the provocations where Nigerians should demand justice and respect for human rights.
“It was not Davido’s music that lynched Deborah Yakubu and continues to frustrate the cause of justice. Nor has it contributed to the arbitrary detention of religious dissenters – call them atheists or whatever – such as Mubarak Bala, now languishing in prison for his 38th month. These are the provocations where every citizen should exercise the capacity for revulsion.“
Soyinka admitted that he had not seen the video clip himself, but insisted on his stance based on his understanding of art and religion. He said that he respected all religions and expected them to respect each other as well. He said that Nigeria was a beautiful country and that Nigerians should celebrate their diversity and unity.
“I have not seen the clip, but I insist on the right of the artiste to deploy dance in a religious setting as a fundamental given. Such deployment is universal heritage, most especially applicable in the case of Islam where a plot of land, even without the physical structure, can be turned, in the twinkling of an eye, into a sacral space for believers to gather and worship in between mundane pursuits.
“Dancing in front of a mosque cannot therefore, on its own, be read as an act of provocation or offence but as an affirmation of the unified sensibility of the spiritual in human. Let us learn to read it that way. Those who persist in taking offence to bed and serving it up as breakfast should exercise their right of boycotting Davido’s products – no one quarrels with that right. However, it is not a cause for negative and incitive excitation.”